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Letters in Editor's Mailbag.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Make city sole client

For an old soldier in the political wars of towns and localities, I am grateful that the Charter Review Committee has recommended to the Eugene City Council that the charter be amended to provide that the office of city attorney be filled by in-house counsel rather than by a private law firm.

The Register-Guard's rush to oppose that critical change (editorial, Feb. 5) is thoroughly consistent with the city's current policy of "What's good for business is good for the city" (and, seemingly, protecting the little guy is not important). The obvious conflicts that arise under the current arrangement need to be addressed now. In-house counsel correctly addresses that problem.

As a former practitioner of the law in three eastern states, after locating here I was astonished to learn that the local charter provision is in clear derogation of the Canons of Ethics established long ago by the American Bar Association. Canon DR 5-105 of the Oregon Code of Professional Responsibility provides, in part: "A `likely conflict of interest' exists in all other situations in which the objective personal, business or property interests of the clients are adverse."

If the current city attorney, an employee of the Harrang Long Gary Rudnick PC law firm, is asked to draft an amendment to the zoning code affecting, for example, building set-back lines in commercial zones, and if that firm represents commercial real estate developers, is not the potential conflict readily apparent?

As to the editorial's concern about saving money, the current arrangement costs taxpayers approximately $1.5 million per annum. A perfectly competent in-house city attorney would be able to provide first-class, nonconflictual services for half of that. Let's have a city attorney who has only one client - the city of Eugene.


Constitution weakened

I am a self-taught philosopher and writer of ethics. I am writing out of concern for the people's Constitution. I believe that a fear-driven and overpaid Congress has rendered it meaningless with its ignorant anti-drug and anti-terrorist legislation.

Truly, our sick society largely favors these right-wing extremist measures. And that's OK, because members of the general public are not sworn to uphold the constitution. However, never have so many broken their oaths of office by signing unconstitutional legislation into law. And there is no one to hold them accountable.

Further, we are an economically divided people. One cannot divide a diverse people without confusion, chaos and calamity in the middle and lower classes. Therefore, a weakened Constitution can be set aside in times of great calamity, such as further terrorist attacks or even riots. Great calamity will ensue, along with fascist economic policies.

Of course, Congress would do this most dastardly deed in a secret session. Proud soldiers uphold the Constitution on far-away battlefields while these rats give it all away at home.

There you have it: We are but one step away from losing our Constitution altogether. What then will the proud soldiers fight for? Maybe the flag and the president?

Finally, the Senate voted 96 to 1 in favor of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's anti-terrorist legislation. Let's find out who that lone vote was and elect him or her president in 2004. In the meantime, we can elect some constitutionally solid Libertarians to office in 2002.


Choose new energy path

Polls show that most Oregonians oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And Oregonians know that industrializing the last great ecosystem on our continent in order to provide fuel for our personal vehicles is not common sense.

But the Bush-Cheney energy plan was created with almost exclusive input for energy executive like Kenneth Lay of Enron. It did not seriously consider renewable energy resources. And Vice President Dick Cheney labeled energy conservation nothing more than a "sign of personal virtue."

Fuel efficiency and smart use of energy is obviously a primary solution to our energy problems. Our country consumes 25 percent of the world's petroleum production, yet we have done little to focus on reducing waste. In fact, the fuel economy of the U.S. vehicle fleet is now declining, reversing over two decades of steady improvement. It is time to increase fuel efficiency standards.

Wind power is the fastest growing energy resource in the world. Solar panel factories are running. Oregon is becoming a center for the burgeoning renewable energy industry and climate change carbon offset market. Eugene residents are now offered a choice by Eugene Water & Electric Board between the traditional resource-damaging ways of making electricity, or electricity produced by wind power (sign up if you have not yet done so).

I hope that President George Bush and Sen. Gordon Smith know that Oregon's future jobs and economy will be aided by an alternative energy policy. And that Oregonians are saying no thanks to a policy that despoils the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


Terrorizing ourselves

What is a terrorist? Is it a person or a group who tries to destroy our way of life, bring down or cripple our major institutions and make us fear for our own safety and our children's futures?

If these are the goals of a terrorist, we've had one living among us for many years. This terrorist, while hiding in the guise of the little people's champion, has convinced us to terrorize ourselves by promising to "cut the fat" while still providing "more for less." This terrorist used the classic strategies of deception and dissension to accomplish his mission. He promised us that "more for less" could happen. We could pay less and still have it all.

Next, he turned one group of citizens against another. He convinced us that the public employees were the enemy of us all. He pitted the senior citizens against the children in school. He forced our police and firefighters to fight with our teachers and students, the elderly and disabled for the ever-decreasing funds needed to provide the services that we need and cherish. The other guy was the "fat" that needed to be cut.

"More for less " hasn't become reality for our state. What happens when you drastically reduce funding for needed services? Ask our high school seniors who have seen our schools deteriorate while class sizes have grown from 20 or 25 to 35 or 40 and beyond. Ask the fixed income seniors who saved some property tax money and lost Meals on Wheels, health care and other senior services. Ask our police and firefighters who are expected to do "more with less."

As our institutions crumble, our lives become less safe and our children receive less and less, remember that we did this to ourselves with a great deal of help from Bill Sizemore.


Flatten EWEB rates

The Eugene Water & Electric Board's decision to adopt a tiered electric rate structure last fall was controversial because of the compelling argument that a disproportionate burden would fall on those households that could least afford it or could exercise the least control over conservation (large households, renters, low-income households, the retired, the disabled, etc.).

EWEB then said that tiered electric rates more closely mirror its cost of acquiring power, with the highest tier reflecting the cost of electricity the utility expects to buy on the wholesale spot market. With current spot prices now down to $18 to $20 per megawatt, EWEB's tiered rate model is turned on its head.

Now those same households are really getting shafted, paying the higher tier rates for electricity that conceivably costs EWEB no more, if not less, than the lower tiers.

Currently EWEB is hurting because consumption is too low, forcing the utility to sell power contracts at large losses. Maybe the tiered structure should be inverted now, rewarding those who use the most?

All of this points out a key shortcoming of the tiered rate structure: it was based on assumptions of EWEB's future costs of purchasing electricity in a very volatile marketplace. A flat across-the-board increase would have been more equitable then and much more so now.

EWEB should get rid of tiered rates, figure out how much of this one-time "hangover" can be absorbed through cost-cutting and other means, and share the balance of the pain equally by adopting flat rates that make up the difference.


War a partisan tool

During the gulf war, President George H.W. Bush enjoyed 90 percent approval ratings. He made the "mistakes" of forming an international coalition and having a measurable goal. Kuwait was freed, the alliance declared victory and, without a war to hide behind, Bush's popularity plummeted.

White House strategist Karl Rove has stated that this administration will use war for partisan advantage. It will act unilaterally, the war will go on indefinitely and only traitors would raise questions. This will stifle dissent and deflect attention from the recession, Enron, the attack on the Bill of Rights and the raid on Social Security funds. A new front before November to help Republican candidates is likely.

Now that the Taliban have been routed, Northern Alliance factions have reverted to form, calling in U.S. air strikes on each other. International aid shipments have been interrupted for months, and Afghans are forced to sell their children so they can eat. Do they consider us liberators or a hated enemy? Have we already passed the point where American troops are in harm's way, not to fight terrorism, but to prop up Bush's approval ratings?

Only Congress can declare war. Congress must reassert its authority and demand accountability from the White House. Hard questions about security lapses and how corporations dictated foreign policy need to be answered. No more rubber stamp, especially for the bloated defense budget (a windfall for the Bush and Osama bin Laden families' joint venture, the Carlyle Group).

This shameless war profiteering must stop.


High volume, low price

At last! Two health care financial experts speak out.

Skip Kriz and Bess Price of PeaceHealth's Oregon region spoke the truth (Register-Guard, Feb. 4): "As with most businesses, the greater the volume, the lower the overall cost. Health care is no exception... . In health care, more volume also translates into improved quality because an experienced, seasoned health care team produces better results."

I couldn't have said it better myself! And what greater volume of patients than the entire state of Oregon under the Health Care for All Oregonians initiative?



The Register-Guard welcomes letters on topics of general interest. Our length limit is 250 words; all letters are subject to condensation. Writers are limited to one letter per calendar month. Because of the volume of mail, not all letters can be printed. Letters must be signed with the writer's full name. An address and daytime telephone number are needed for verification purposes; this information will not be published or released. Mail letters to Mailbag, P.O. Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440-2188 Fax: 338-2828 E-mail:
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Feb 14, 2002
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